Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"My friends say I'm very koi"

I've had a couple of emails from friends who are all curious to see what exactly these new paintings are which I keep talking about.  And which have caused me to disappear into my studio instead of doing things like answering my phone and eating balanced meals.  So ta-DAAA!  Kind of a weird photo, the flash reflected off the gel stuff and made the bones stand out more than they do in real life, but you'll get the idea.  1 x 3 feet, on wood, in acrylic.

So far I have three paintings done, two in good progress, and one which is not working yet.  I pick up wood panels for 3 more tomorrow.  I'd like to have them done before I fly to Oregon next Monday.  Think I'll make it?

Any ideas about fishbone symbolism out there?  It seems to be part of my personal iconography.  The first time I saw a fish skeleton graphic was on a patch which was safety-pinned to an uber-cool punk girl's jacket back in the 80's when I was pretty much the opposite everything she stood for.

Thanks (and possibly apologies) to my fantastically arty friend Scott whose tattoo ideas inspired the cherry blossoms.  Hope you don't mind...

Monday, February 23, 2009


I'm preparing to teach a pen and ink class in the Philadelphia area on Thursday.  Yesterday afternoon I gathered my materials, planned some exercises and ideas, and worked on the class handout.  This drawing resurfaced, from my first scientific illustration class back in 1996...this was the class where I discovered my calling to that obscure field.  It's a piece of redwood bark driftwood, done with a crowquill pen and ink.  Crowquills, to the uninitiated, are a very traditional pen nib with a super fine flexible tip, meant to be dipped in ink.

Friday, February 20, 2009

My studio

Since I'm going to Gary's pottery studio this afternoon with the lovely and talented Ben, and since Gary always blogs everything immediately, and there might even be a link back to here, I figure I should have a more presentable current post than last night's quote of amusing-yet-questionable merit.

So, this is my studio, with new paintings in progress.  I love this space, it's way upstairs in my house, and gets sun all afternoon.  There's a beautiful view out over the valley too.  As for the paintings, these are the first of the new pieces for the Korova show, the ones with the gel medium I was typing about a few days ago.  The muse is being very kind and present this week, creativity comes in waves and this one is a tsunami.  (I dream about gigantic waves all the time, I love those dreams and perhaps they are related.)  I can't wait to get upstairs and start painting again.

A good book on tape helps too.  I'm listening to More Tales of the City.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A useful distinction

The following quote tickles my inner biology major.  Anyone without an inner biology major can skip to the last post.

"Before this paper continues, I must defend my use of the word 'crap.'  'Scat' is a fine word, real fine, when you discover it in a quaint sylvan setting, nestled among ferns and hickory seedlings.  Everyone wants to touch it, and pick it apart, and postulate on the dietary habits of its owner.  There is a wholesomeness about scat, a fawn-like innocence.  Stepping in scat is a rustic luxury, and you don't spent hours sitting on the front stoop, picking it out of your sneaker with a housekey.  There are definite ways to tell crap from scat.  When it's made by a deer, or a woodchuck, or a satyr, or a wood nymph, it's scat.  When you find it in a massive pile in the hallway, thoughtfully deposited by your neighbor's dog (or your neighbor), it's crap.  When it's composed of seeds and nutshells and bark and grasses and moonbeams and fairy dust, it's scat.  When it's composed of horsemeat by-products and sodium propionate and BHA and BHT and potassium sorbate and leftover ravioli, it's crap, plain and simple."

—excerpt from a paper by Mark A. Koplik, 1982.

Mark, whoever you are and if you ever read this, thank you for the many laughs I've had over your writing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Groundhog day

Yesterday when I walked out of the house in the late morning, I got that first intoxicating teasing sniff of spring...that lovely damp-earth-emerging smell.  The sun was out.  Chickadees were chirping their spring songs.  The chickens were really perky.  I know I know, it's only mid-February, and in Ithaca we can expect at least another solid month of cold bleakness, and most of the really huge blizzards I have experienced here have all come in March or April, so I'm restraining myself from getting too giddy.  BUT here's one small outburst from this Seasonal Affect Disorder sufferer... ohmyGOSHican'twaituntilit'sSPRINGandicangooutsidewithoutacoatandgorunningandseeGREENagainandmaybesunshinetooandopenmywindowsyesyesYES!!!!!!

Later, driving home, I caught another whiff of spring.  A fresh skunk out on Rt. 79.  mmmm.

Tonight it's snowing and my capoeira class was just cancelled due to scary roads.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Purple cabbage and gel medium

Hmmm...I'm very tired and this might not be my most brilliant post.  It's been a very busy week here in my little world, but not busy time near the computer.  I'm teaching a lot this month, 4 week watercolor and colored pencil classes locally, and a one-night pen and ink class in Philadelphia next week.  Teaching is a pleasure, but the preparations are a surprising amount of work.  All you teachers out there know this already, don't you?  How do you do it every day?  For each class I need to provide interesting subject matter which is appropriate to the technique we're working on (today the grocery store provided asparagus, red onions, and purple cabbage), and have a demonstration piece planned and prepared to show the technique.  Here's one of my drawings from the colored pencil class, a nautilus shell.  We were talking about the concept of working on colored paper, where your middle ground color is already there, and you need to think about adding both darks and lights to make the complete image jump out.  This is one of my favorite techniques.

I spent the afternoon today experimenting with acrylic gel medium.  My art pal Adam uses this as a structural background for his fantastic paintings.  I'm working (with a super short deadline) on a series of big new paintings on wood for a show at Korova which will go up in March, and am so far very pleased with the medium.  I'm hoping to be able to use it to glaze bright layers of acrylics and add depth and dimension.  Also pleased with the two paintings I started today, I think these will flow as well as the paints will.  Will keep you posted.

On a totally other note...I always have a book going, and just finished a really good one.  Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Nashlund (she wrote Ahab's Wife which I keep raving about to anyone who will listen).  It is set in Birmingham in the early 1960's and is a compelling tale of the struggle for racial equality.  Wow.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Indulging in some capoeira metaphors

I think a lot about capoeira.  (Hmmm, I realize that not everyone really knows what capoeira can read the wikipedia article here.  And please don't pronounce it "capillera," that makes me crazy.)  I've been playing since last April, and now tend to wake up in the morning singing in Brazilian Portuguese, find myself looking for white workout clothes, and feel an almost uncontrollable desire to break into cartwheels in large open places.  Right now I'm feeling all confident because I recently became able to do an au from cocorinha.  Pretty heady stuff, believe me, even if that's all Portuguese to you.  I try not to talk about it too much, because people start to glaze over preeeetty quickly...but that's what a blog is for, right?  To chatter away about whatever you fancy?

My professor, Graveto, is always talking about how the game of capoeira is a metaphor, or possibly reflection would be a better term, of the larger game of life.  That the things one learns in the roda translates to larger lessons.  I think about this a lot too, and I'm going to give you an example.  Alright, so one of the objects of the game is to keep the center.  This is on three levels:

1) Your balance.  Your own personal bodily center, so you can play well and not fall over or be pushed off balance.  Lose your balance and you will lose the game.  Possibly by falling hard on your tailbone, which is very painful and makes you walk funny for weeks as I have discovered.

2) Your emotional center.  So you don't lose concentration, or become fearful, or panic...then you basically give your opponent your center, and he or she can take control and run you around at their whim.  Not so good either.

3) The center of the roda...the person who keeps the center of the physical space is in charge.  If you're on the outside, you're probably mostly defending yourself.

See the lesson?  I guess I'm mostly talking about point 2, it's easy to be pushed off one's emotional center and give the control over to someone or something else.  If I can remember this, it's easier to regain my balance, and to keep my center to begin with.  Don't want to end up thrown by a metaphorical tesoura.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Free Antibiotics?!

Have any of you noticed that the Wegman's receipts have a "free antibiotics" offer on them?  My friend Ben pointed this out to me a few weeks ago, and it has continued to creep me out ever since. 

An hour well spent

I can't help but think that I should spend an hour every day painting....

Here's my painting from Saturday evening's one-hour "paint-off."  It's done with acrylic and pen, a combination I've found to be very trustworthy and quick-drying.  It's a very interesting experience to create art while people are watching, it defines for me more the legendary phenomenon of being "in the zone."  I was actually able to completely ignore everything around me and concentrate.  All the buzz turns into white noise and it's almost easier than working at home in my nice quiet house, with all those distractions like suddenly having a burning desire to clean under the sink, go check for eggs, or writing for my blog.   This reminds me of why I used to take my work to coffeeshops.  At the same time, it was exhausting making art that intensely.  You could see all the artists reeling afterwards, and sneaking out the back door before the party was over.

There are a lot of talented artists in my community, and it was a pleasure to play with them for an evening.  I'm glad also that the painting went home with friends.

It turned into a very busy weekend in general, lots going on.  Amongst other things, I ate at my favorite restaurant while in disguise (Just a Taste, mmm mmm yummy, those garlic braised greens are dreamy), walked into a scary karaoke party when I thought it was going to be a salsa dance, cleaned the chicken coop (less interesting but necessary), went to the ABC art reception, and started taking a tango class.

Tonight I start teaching watercolor, must go prepare.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Wee kitties

These are the wee kitties I made at Gary's pottery studio.  (He has some great photos of the ABC show on his blog, I see.)  Nebraska is skeptical, but that's nothing unusual.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Schmoozing in the local art scene

It's going to be an art-filled weekend in our wee metropolis.  

On Saturday evening I will be participating in the 3rd Annual Ithaca Festival Paint-off.  This is a total hoot of an event, where about 25 artists get in a big room and have exactly an hour to create a painting.  The room is also full of people wandering around eating and drinking and generally gawking at us while we paint...who doesn't like to see the process behind the art?...all the while a big clock on the wall counts down the minutes remaining.  There's something challenging and fun about having the deadline and the pressure that I thrive on.  After the hour is up, while I wander around in a post-creative daze clutching a beverage, there's a raffle and auction of the fresh art to benefit the Ithaca Festival.  Please come if you can, it's in the atrium of Center Ithaca on Saturday, doors open at 7:00, painting starts at and drink and live music too.  $15 at the door.  

This was my painting two years ago at this event.  Yup, just an hour.

Then there's a reception and art party on Sunday evening at 6:00 at the ABC.  I hear the show looks great.  That party is free, and doesn't benefit anyone but us.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Song in my Head

Quem te ensinou a nadar?
Foi o tombo do navio?
O foi o balanco do mar?

Who taught you how to swim?
Was it the tumbling of the ship?
Or the rolling of the sea?

I thought they just ate corn and bugs

This one's for my big brother, who is apparently bloodthirsty enough to want to actually SEE Martha eating the mouse.  Thanks to my housemates, who don't yet know I stole the photo from their blog.

Two new inches of fresh fluffy snow fell last night, and is still dusting down as of this writing.  I can imagine the xc skiing is perfect up at Hammond Hill, nice powder over a good fast slick base which is just the way I like it...sigh...but I must restrain myself and virtuously work on that art project, the one with the looming deadline, which I still haven't started.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cute Chick

(Young Christi, in her homemade teepee, with her pet chicken, age 9.  The chicken thing obviously goes back a ways.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Fair is fowl, and fowl is fair

To quote The Bard, loosely.  See, I remember something from that Shakespeare class I took in college.

I know you all are absolutely on the edge of your seats, dying to hear about my flock of chickens.  I love my little flock (often referred to around here as "the girls"), they are so incredibly entertaining, and their eggs are enormous and yummy.  OK, so I tend to be kind of easily amused, but it would take a real grumpy curmudgeon to not at least chuckle at these pea-headed cartoony birds.  Yesterday I let them out, and scattered some corn on the ground to their evident excitement.  Dorothy kept bouncing 2-3 feet straight up into the air to get to the source of the coveted corn, legs trailing behind and little beady eyes intent on the cup as she snagged a kernel on each bounce.  I laughed out loud.

Left to right in the photo above, they are Ruth, Ethel, Dorothy, Martha, and Clara...named after my grandmothers and various aged late aunts.  There was a Gladys as well, but she disappeared sometime in the early fall when I was traveling.  She was the mean one, pecked all the others, so I'm not completely convinced that they didn't do her in when no one was looking.  I've had them since last June, and they roost in a rather classy periwinkle blue coop at the end of my driveway.  They have the run of the yard, and often can be found hanging out under my housemates' bird feeder.  I got 3 lovely eggs today.

Martha killed and ate a mouse once.  I witnessed this and am not making it up.

Blue Trees at the ABC

Good morning sunshines.  Yes, there is sunshine in Ithaca once in a while, even in Ithaca, all rumors to the contrary.

Big news of the day is that there's a new show up at the ABC Cafe!  Reason I'm telling you is that I'm part of it, with two of my "blue tree" paintings.  I got a preview yesterday evening when dropping my work off, and it's going to look really good (and given that I got a text from Ben at well after midnight that he and Laura were STILL hanging the show after SIX hours, it will definitely look good!).  My friends Ben, Gary, Laura, Werner, Bridget, Natasha, Adam, and Jim have all contributed work, plus a few other artists whose names escape me right now.  Check it out, and eat one of their famous guacamole-cheddar omelettes too!  Word on the street is that there might be an opening reception on Sunday, will keep you posted.

I've noticed for the last few years that every time I look up in the winter at night, I see Orion hovering right there overhead.  No matter what time of night, or what direction I'm looking.  Even if there's cloud cover, he'll be looking out of the one patch of clear sky.  He's not called "the hunter" for no reason.

Back here on earth, it's another reasonably busy day in the local art universe.  Tonight I teach, which is always rewarding but makes me nervous beforehand.  Today I must work on a small commissioned piece with a looming deadline.  And if the sunshine hold out, I will walk to the Brooktondale post office to mail out some card orders.

This blog business is pretty fun.  Thanks everyone who has checked in.